Student profile - physics and philosophy

Eleanor Gleave is in her second year of a Physics and Philosophy MSci

When did you decide you wanted to study physics at university?

I discovered my love of physics during my GCSEs; once I realised what physics is actually all about - trying to provide a model through which we can explain our world - it thrilled me. I’ve always enjoyed maths, and puzzles, and endlessly asking ‘why?’ Physics is a perfect combination of all three.

Why did you decide to study physics and philosophy?

I stumbled across the course by accident while scrolling through a list of joint-honours courses. At the time I wasn’t studying philosophy at school, but the title intrigued me enough to have a look through the course details. I decided almost immediately that it was the course for me.

What do you enjoy most about studying physics and philosophy?

Parts of my philosophy course are completely unrelated to physics, others, such as the Philosophy of Space and Time, are linked. In a physics course, you only look at certain concepts, like special relativity, mathematically. Being able to use a metaphysical perspective is really interesting. Physics is very good in its ability to provide incredibly accurate models of HOW our universe works, but shies away from ever trying to explain WHY it works like this, which is where philosophy steps in.  I get to ask all the questions that physicists get a little uncomfortable when asked!

Once you graduate what are your plans?

If I were to stay in academia, I would like to study quantum field theory. I’m still deciding whether I would like to approach it from the physics or the philosophy side (or potentially both!). Alternatively, I’d like to go into teaching. I entirely credit my amazing physics teachers at school for kick-starting, and then maintaining, my love for the subject; having an opportunity to do the same for other students would be amazing.

What advice would you give someone considering their university options?

Look carefully at the course pages at each of the universities you’re thinking about - a physics course at one university can be structured totally differently to one at another university. Additionally, I’d really recommend having a good look at courses outside of what you’re already considering; even if just to confirm that you’re looking in the right direction already!



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